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By: Jennifer Devine

A short few months ago I sat happily in my 7th floor office, working with people I respect, doing work I love, helping clients achieve successes. I found myself, however, looking out the window (well, not MY window of course, the one across the hall), gazing down at the legal world moving below me, without me. I longed to be a part of the swirling colors, the engaging personalities, the vibrant minds, the cacophonous collaboration of teams, to achieve my own successes. Should I pry myself out of this comfy chair and venture out into that vast space, filled with unknown possibilities and pitfalls? Am I brave enough to release this death grip on the day-to-day normalcy I know and love to set off on a new path into that community I see before me? Do I have something to contribute, something worthwhile, am I good enough? Can I sit by any longer and wonder, squander, wither and wait?

In the quietud of my office, I can barely hear the dulcet melody of that world, knowing its subtle harmony does not yet reach my ears. It compels me, straining to hear it, and I know, in my professional bones, my paralegal soul, I cannot wait any longer. I edge, ever so slowly, to that window, press my forehead to the glass, and mentally prepare to leave that old, comfortable, secure place I call ‘home.’

Baby Step: I peek out from behind the curtain (well, aluminum horizontal blinds, to be more accurate), like a child from behind its mother’s leg, intrigued by that big world out there. I AM going to let go of this security and take some wobbly steps.

I changed employers recently and now find my professional home in a place that is supportive, nurturing, growing, challenging, and suffused with the passion and energy of amazing people. Remember Episode One so long ago? “You have the power to grow yourself. Seek out your sunshine. Draw on the passion of those who could inspire you. Give of yourself to nourish others. Reach up, reach out. Flourish.” I am growing, and giving, now. Living the dream!

Toddler Step: I’ve kind of got my sea legs now. Let’s see where they can take me and what wonders I might find!

Fueled by the support of my new coworkers, and a workplace mentoring program, I have a rough draft mission statement fermenting in my brain. It is beginning to define the goal I could never before quite elucidate. I want to increase the visibility of paralegals, and extoll the benefits they bring to clients by virtue of their working relationships with their attorneys. It will be a process, I know. To start out, I had coffee with a professional acquaintance with whom I had worked several times, but had never met in person. He has met with plenty of attorneys over the years, but never with a paralegal. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet someone new and let him in on the secret benefits of having a good paralegal on a team. I’ll mark that one in the win column, thank you.

Teen Step: I know what I want; now I have to go get it. Unlike so many lunch meetings, nobody is going to deliver it to me wrapped up in a neat little package.

A couple of years ago I bought the study materials for the NALA exam; tried and failed several times to self-study, felt frustrated, unequal to the task, and rather downtrodden. Earlier this year I had the good fortune (thanks to my local paralegal association) to meet an instructor from the paralegal program at my local college. We talked about the exam, and I wished out loud that there were an exam prep course to help me along my professional path. This fall I enrolled in their 12 week exam prep course, which was brought to life as a result of my request.

Adult Step: Like an action movie heroine, I dive head-long, smashing through that plate glass window through which I previously gazed. There is probably an awesome explosion as well, with flying glass, and a slack-jawed overlord (supervising attorney?) staring in disbelief. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s how it happened all right…

Today is the day of that heroic leap. No going back. For better or worse, it is begun and I can’t go ‘home’ again. I sat for the NALA exam, with a lump in my throat and heart on my sleeve.

So, here I am. Out in the abyss, cold and alone, glancing back at the warm fluorescent glow of the lights in my old comfortable office-home, peering uncertainly ahead at that alluring legal world I admired from afar, wondering when and how I am going to integrate myself into that landscape and all its amazing inhabitants; how I am going to become one of them.

One step at a time, that’s how. The same way I got this far. I can hear the whisper of that siren song, the sweet harmony that eluded me from behind the wall of glass, feel the thrum of heartbeat of that legal community that inspires me, and am determined to add my voice to the chorus and my heart to the passion.

To all you intrepid souls who have passed this way before me, I’ll see YOU shortly.

To those of you still snugged in at ‘home,’ make no excuses. Follow the sound of my voice; find the music in your soul, shatter the glass, take the Baby Step, join me. This is the most beautiful place in the world. You deserve to see this, to be a part of it, for yourselves.

“Everyone who wills can hear the inner voice. It is within everyone.”  -Mahatma Gandhi

“Music is the voice that tells us that the human race is greater than it knows.”  -Napoleon Bonaparte

Jennifer Devine
Paralegal
Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C.

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Hear that – it’s time to get to stepping, TPSers! Baby steps, toddler steps, teen steps, adult steps, crawling toward the coffee – whatever kind of steps it takes to survive this Major Monday! We’ll see you at the end of the week with another fun post. Until then, grab another cup of caffeinated happiness and take your seat on the crazy train. It’s gonna be a fun one!

And don’t forget to contemplate what steps you can take to become a better person/paralegal. Declare it and make it so.